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开源世界的未来

开源世界的未来

John Hagel/John Seely Brown 2012年10月30日
开源运动不应该止步于软件领域。实际上,越来越多的制造企业正在为开源做准备,而且已经涌现出了一批前景看好的案例。随着开源运动进一步在医药、制造等硬件领域普及,人类有望形成一种新型的经济模式。它建立在相互的信任关系之上,能为参与各方都创造价值。

    1998年1月,网景公司(Netscape)发布了一则声明,称公司将使其网络浏览器Navigator的源代码完全免费开放,随后有人创造了“开源”这个词。此后,“通用访问”和“免费发布”的思想彻底改变了整个软件产业。

    尽管大家都已经了解开源社区激发软件业创造力和协作精神(比如Android应用商店)的作用,但开源并没有在这一领域之外取得多大进展。部分原因在于,软件本身就是模块化的,能从任何地方快速获取,也很容易进行改写。

    不过,开源的思想在软件业之外也有巨大的潜力可挖。要创建一个成功的开源社区,只需要一些能共享内容、从中获益的参与者。这种透明、合作和相互信任的网络在其他行业也会产生巨大的效益,比如制药业和工业品领域。

    我们已经看到,把开源思想运用于硬件开发和生产会带来令人满意的成果。消费者已在开源硬件运动中发挥了领导作用,这在目前风靡一时的“自造者运动”(Maker Movement,也有称“创客运动”,指消费者利用3D打印等各种新兴技术,自行设计制造各种产品的运动,近两年风靡欧美——译注)中就体现得淋漓尽致。这种由业余爱好者组成的亚文化群体及DIY迷们已推动紧密协作、社区化的“黑客空间”和备受追捧的“制汇节”(Maker Faires,首届活动于2006年在加州举办。目前已发展成为超过700名创客参展、吸引超过17万名参观者参加的全球性盛会——译注)在美国各地大行其道。商业界并没有忽视这些“自造者”;实际上风险投资家们正密切关注着这些运动的发展。

    开源硬件绝不仅仅是一场消费者运动或初创公司热潮而已;对那些成熟企业来说,它也有重大的商业影响。Arduino是一家意大利的电子成型平台(electronics prototyping platform)公司,它就已从开源模式中尝到了甜头。Arduino公开发布各种产品,包括其畅销电路板的所有设计图和电路图,任何人都能拿来自行使用、修改或销售。公司如何赚钱呢?它面向想要根据其电路板制造设备的人,大部分收入来自于为他们提供咨询和设计服务。Arduino把自己打造成一家可信赖的咨询公司,从而获得了竞争优势,同时还利用第三方的反馈,使自己每一代电路板都更臻完美。据《连线》杂志(Wired)对该公司的一次访谈称,免费获得Arduino设计的人会对编程语言和线路设计提出改进建议,进而大幅提高了产品销量。

    尽管开源模式还没有广泛用于工业品领域,但已涌现出一些前景看好的案例——尤其是在非盈利机构这个领域中。如有一家名为“开源生态”(Open Source Ecology)的非盈利集团正在试验利用基础原材料,采用多种方式,以低廉的成本从无到有生产50种重要的机械,从面包烘烤炉到反向铲(back hoe),不一而足。这个机构的创始人马尔钦•雅库博夫斯基将其“地球村建设项目”(Global Village Construction Set)的蓝图和图表都发布在维基上,提供所有的细节,供世界各地有意参与这个项目的人取用和修改。全美各地的团体都已为“开源生态”开发了蓝图,同时位于密苏里州乡间的一家名为“Factor e Farm”的机构正在制造这些机械的原型,并进行改进。据该集团的网站称,50台机械中有12台正处于原型制造和文档编制阶段,包括小型拖拉机、反向铲和电脑数控电路磨机(CNC circuit mill)。通过这一建设项目,“开源生态”旨在降低那些需要重建的乡村社区、城市社区以及发展中国家开展农耕、建筑和制造业的门槛。

    尽管开源思想在上述领域已经初步显示了成功迹象,但必须承认,在盈利性制造业应用开源原则还面临着真正的挑战。比如,开源硬件项目往往要求参与者拥有工具和相应的场地。但是,随着黑客空间和业余爱好者运动变得日益普及,越来越多的个人和团体也都应该能够接触到这类资源。

    The term "open source" was first coined in response to Netscape's January 1998 announcement that the company would make freely available the source code for its web browser, Navigator. Since then, the philosophies of universal access and free redistribution of source code have revolutionized the software industry.

    While we have seen how open source communities can foster creativity and collaboration in software (think of the Android app store), open source has not ventured too far beyond this space. This is partly because software is inherently modular, instantly accessible from anywhere, and easily altered.

    Yet open source ideas have tremendous potential beyond software. All you need to create a successful open source community are participants who both contribute to, as well as benefit from, shared content. Such networks of transparency, collaboration, and trust can be tremendously beneficial in other industries as well, from pharmaceuticals to manufactured goods.

    We have already begun to see promising results from applying open source philosophies to hardware development and manufacturing. Consumers have taken the lead in the open source hardware movement, embodied by the popular "Maker Movement." This subculture of hobbyists and Do it Yourself (DIY)-enthusiasts has driven the rise of collaborative, community "hacker spaces" as well as the hugely popular Maker Faires in cities across the country. The business community has not ignored these makers; venture capitalists are certainly paying attention to the developments.

    Open source hardware is more than just a consumer movement or startup fad; the business implications for established firms can be significant as well. Arduino, an Italian electronics prototyping platform, has benefitted from its open-source model. Arduino publishes all the designs and schematics for its products, including its popular circuit board, for anyone to use, modify, or sell themselves. How does Arduino make money? The firm makes the bulk of its income from delivering consulting and design services to those looking to build devices based on its circuit board. By building a reputation as a trusted advisor, Arduino has developed a competitive advantage while still capitalizing on third party input to make each generation of its circuit board better. According to a Wired interview, contributors with access to Arduino's designs have offered improvements to the programming language and wiring, which have significantly boosted sales.

    Although the open source model has not yet been broadly applied to manufactured goods, there are promising emerging examples -- particularly in the not for profit sector. One nonprofit group, Open Source Ecology, is experimenting with ways to cheaply construct from scratch over 50 crucial machines, from bakery ovens to back hoes, with basic materials. Founder Marcin Jakubowski publishes all the blueprints and schematics for each piece of his Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) on a Wiki for contributors from all over the world to access and tweak. Groups throughout the country have developed blueprints for Open Source Ecology, while machines are prototyped and improved on the Factor e Farm in rural Missouri. According to the group's website, 12 of the 50 machines are in their prototyping and documentation phase, including a microtractor, backhoe, and CNC circuit mill. Through this construction kit, Open Source Ecology aims to lower barriers to entry for farming, building, and manufacturing in rural communities, urban neighborhoods in need of renovation, and developing nations.

    Despite early signs of success, there are, admittedly, real challenges to implementing open source principles to for-profit manufacturing. For one, open source hardware projects often require participants to have access to tools and space. However, as hackerspaces and hobbyist movements grow more popular, more individuals and groups should have access to these kinds of resources.

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